Leaked Immigration Court Official’s Directive Could Violate Rules That Protect Families From Deportation

A high-ranking immigration court official has issued a requirement to judges in New York City that deportation cases involving families “MUST BE COMPLETED WITHIN 365 DAYS,” according to documents obtained by Reveal. The order may violate due process, as well as long-standing rules that protect families from deportation before their cases have been adjudicated fully.

The discovery of Assistant Chief Immigration Judge Daniel Daugherty’s email to judges illustrates the inner workings of one of the nation’s busiest immigration courts, days after the Department of Justice filed a petition to disband the immigration judges union.

The department and union have been battling over judges’ independence. Immigration court cases involving parents and children – such as those separated at the border or in the recent Mississippi workplace raids – can take several years to adjudicate. Binding case law effectively gives immigration judges the discretion to add time to a case by granting continuances, if the circumstances demonstrate “good cause.” Yet as the backlog of cases continues to grow, immigration judges have faced tightening restrictions on how much time cases can be given.

In mid-November, James R. McHenry III, director of the Executive Office for Immigration Review, the Justice Department agency that runs its immigration courts, issued a memo stating family cases in 10 cities, including New York, would be tracked, “with the expectation that they will be completed within one year or less.” McHenry’s memo, like most of his office’s policy memoranda, was made available online to the general public – including immigration attorneys whose job it is to be aware of rule changes that may affect their clients.

Two weeks after McHenry’s memo, Daugherty sent the previously undisclosed email to judges under his jurisdiction, using a combination of all-capital letters, boldface and underlined text. Several New York-area immigration attorneys contacted by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting were not aware of the email or the strict directives it contains.

By Aura Bogado for REVEALNEWS.ORG
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